Though the weather outside was cold, the atmosphere inside the new lobby of the Southern Indiana Rural Health Clinic in Austin was cheerful and warm.
The attractive facility features new flooring and wall coverings. It has plenty of room for students who become ill and require a trip to the small brick building facing U.S. Highway 31 South.
Traditionally, school nurses have split their daily hours between district schools and their young clients in each school building. If a child becomes ill with an ear ache, the flu or sore throat, most often the school’s answer has been to call a parent so the child can be taken home. Further care, if given, was the responsibility of the parent to continue. But often, Dr. Joan Duwve pointed out in her speech, if medicine is not purchased because of lack of money, the child has been left to get well on his own, even if it means missing multiple school days.
Dr. Duwve, the Indiana State Chief Medical Officer, was the keynote speaker, and her attentive audience was well aware of her caring attitude toward students and her worries that missed days eventually could become a habit and that habit could lead to a poorer lifestyle and less hope for personal improvement for such children as well as more physical problems later on in life.
The clinic, created through innovative thinking by the Indiana Rural Health Association and the Indiana State Board of Health, is, advised Dr. Duwve, “…an opportunity to address a need identified in rural communities all over Indiana.”
Over one-half of students in Indiana schools have chronic health problems, she said, involving diabetes, asthma and food allergies. “Thanks to the support from these superintendents and from Dr. Goodin in his role as a state legislator, we can now fight these conditions which threaten these communities as a whole,” beamed a happy Dr. Duwve.
Superintendents of all three school districts joined in this clinic spoke at the ribbon-cutting held that morning. Robert Anderson, Dr. Goodin and Trevor Jones indicated they felt more medical attention can prevent absences. When children attend school regularly, they have the opportunity to keep current on lessons and more value is placed on obtaining, at the least, a high school diploma. Incidentally, all three supportive superintendents are Austin graduates. Austin has known its share of notoriety over the past few years; the clinic could be a step toward reclaiming some children and re-directing them toward a more successful, healthy lifestyle.
Created through a partnership with the Indiana Rural School Clinic Network (IRSCN) and school districts in Austin, Crothersville and Hanover, the clinic will combine in-person care along with the new version of healthcare, telehealth.
Telehealth is a rather new field but has proved effective in diagnosing illnesses properly through the use of the school nurse, staff of the clinic and a doctor. Now when a child is sick, he can be seen by the school nurse, who may refer him on to the clinic. Clinic staff can confer with a doctor via the internet.
The new clinic serves students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 who are enrolled in the three participating school districts, Scott School District 1, Crothersville Community Schools and Southwestern Jefferson County Schools. Parents can also use the clinic for acute needs. Students, however, will always be seen first before other patients.
There is no charge for this service.
The Southern Indiana Rural Health Clinic is the second school-based telehealth clinic to open in Indiana. The Indiana Rural Health Association received a planning grant last June to establish school-based telehealth clinics. Such clinics can provide resources and support for current and future school-based health clinics.
“Your goal is to educate children,” Dr. Duwve addressed the superintendents. “This clinic can be one of the tools by which you keep children healthy and ready to learn.”
According to Supt. Anderson, the clinic has been a dream for a long time. He recounted how retired Supt. Berley Goodin attempted to develop a clinic within the Indiana Rural Health network several years ago. “Mr. Goodin was told no, but we are here today to dedicate this clinic to our kids. I really think this clinic will affect secondary education outcomes in this community and in Crothersville and Hanover,” Anderson stated.
Noted Dr. Goodin, one of Berley Goodin’s sons, “This health clinic will make a difference in their lives.”